26 October 2015
Crematorium Breached Human Rights Act by Failing to Return Ashes Of Babies
Lawyers acting for bereaved families say a crematorium breached the Human Rights Act by failing to return the ashes of their babies.
Ian Cohen, from Slater and Gordon, is representing 19 parents caught up in the Emstrey Crematorium scandal in Shrewsbury who are now taking legal action against Shropshire council.
Between 1996 and 2012, the equipment for cremation used the same setting for adults and children, which made it difficult to recover small amounts of ashes.
Mr Cohen says parents suffered psychological injury as a result of not receiving their babies’ remains, which also breaches Articles 8 and 9 of the Human Rights Act 1998 – namely the right to respect for an individual’s private and family life and the right to an individual’s religious thoughts and beliefs.
He said: Every parent will understand the fundamental need to look after and protect their children and those feelings don’t stop after they have passed away.
“The families we have spoken to cannot help but feel that they have failed to protect their children and that is as a result of the actions of Shropshire council.”
But he said the biggest issue for his clients was to ensure that mistakes aren’t repeated and he has written to justice minister Caroline Dinenage MP to ask when the national consultation is likely to go ahead.
It was announced earlier this year after an inquiry led by Shropshire council found more than 50 families had been affected.
It also emerged that parents in other parts of the UK had suffered similar experiences.
Mr Cohen said: “Our clients are very concerned that some three months have passed and they are yet to have any contact from Mrs Dinenage or the Ministry of Justice.
“The minister has also accepted that sadly other families have had similar experiences elsewhere.
“There is a real desire from these families to be involved in the consultation.
“They weren’t involved in the original decisions taken regarding their children’s ashes, and when the report was done for Shropshire council most of them weren’t asked to give evidence.
“In order to ensure that lessons are learned they have to be given a voice and consulted about what has happened, what went wrong and what can be done to put it right.”
Bereaved families in Shrewsbury founded the ‘Ashes 4 Ashes’ group which visited 10 Downing Street earlier this year to deliver a petition signed by 61,000 people calling for the return of ashes to be a legal requirement.
Campaigners say they would also like to see a national inspector for crematoriums appointed.
Mr Cohen added: “The government said there would be a review and all we are asking is that this is done swiftly and sensitively and to ensure that other families do not have to go through the same ordeal.”
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